Pagan vocalist Nikki Brumen on why diversity on lineups is so important

When a music festival has a lineup with so few female and non-binary or queer people on the bill, all I think is it’s really lazy.”

Pagan, Melbourne’s own self-proclaimed death-disco band, are just one of many huge Australian talents who will perform at the inaugural Pool House Party next month, a two-day festival set up by The Smith Street Band on the back of the launch of their own record label, Pool House Records. Pool House Party isn’t just a celebration of The Smithies’ accomplishments, but of the friends they’ve collected along the way.

 “WAAX are my favourite band so I’m so excited to play with them finally,” says Pagan frontwoman Nikki Brumen, now a bouncing ball of excitement.

It’s not often you talk to a musician about their upcoming performance at a festival and have them so excited over other groups on the same bill, but Brumen is just that. “I just love them,” she gushes over WAAX. “I’m their biggest fan. Their EP [Wild & Weak] I’ve played five million and one times. Any band you see a woman in it, I’m just like, ‘Fuck yeah.’ I’m also really excited to see Tired Lion, Press Club and Ecca Vandal as well.”

This is the beauty of Pool House Party. Not only will it present an eclectic mix of bands and musicians, but it looks to draw in a lot of different kinds of music lovers, too – diversity being the operative word across the board. Pagan, being of pure heavy power and bittersweet death rock, are certainly the black sheep of the gathering. “I think we’re definitely the wild card of the bill because we’re so much heavier than any other band,” says Brumen. “But I like that, because I think the crowd that will be going will be pretty open to different genres of music.

“I think it’s good having diversity and this particular festival is so diverse with sound, but also gender diversity and I like that they’re making a real effort to make it so gender inclusive. I think we’ll be the only band with blast beats.”

Gender diversity in music is an area Brumen is particularly passionate about. As the frontwoman of an exceptionally heavy band, and with so many female-fronted rock bands on the up and up, Brumen feels strongly about seeing more diversity on the bills of festivals. “It’s the main thing I care and talk about and it’s the reason I play in a band, because it’s so important to have these bands seen,” she says.

“When a music festival has a lineup with so few female and non-binary or queer people on the bill, all I think is it’s really lazy of the promoters that are putting these shows together because they’re not looking at what bands are out there. It’s so easy to find up and coming bands with women.”

“For example, when I hosted on triple j, I would make a real effort to include mostly female or trans or non-gender specific bands, as well as some with men if I liked, but I could easily play three hours straight of really relevant bands. I feel it’s really quite slack that festivals are getting away with lineups with not many women on them.”

Indeed, the music scene is rife with political agenda and therefore, such is the way of the world. Diversity, equality, multiculturalism, quite often our focus is turned to the politics of the process as opposed to the value and enjoyment of the music. But as Brumen attests, it doesn’t have to be like that.

“I don’t think it should have to be, but it is now because people are making an effort to speak up about it, to say ‘This is ridiculous, why aren’t there women?’ I think it’s great people are bringing the political thing into it because it is making people re-evaluate it and it is making the issue recognised, and people are therefore doing something about it – but it sucks it has to be like that.

“It should just be something that isn’t thought about, it should be the norm. And it’s a shame it’s not, but I can see it’s getting better.”

Pagan will perform at the inaugural Pool House Party, taking over Coburg Velodrome on Saturday March 17, with The Smith Street Band, The Sugarcanes, Tired Lion, Tropical Fuck Storm, Ecca Vandal, Ceres, Bec Sandridge, and more.